How Do You Rate As A Boss?

Have you ever had a great boss? I mean a really great boss? I’ve had many good bosses over my long career. Looking back, the ones who had the most impact on me were those who were knowledgeable, pushed me by setting high expectations and taught me new skills.

National Bosses Day is coming up on October 16. If you are a boss, it’s a perfect time to take stock and determine what improvements would make you an exceptional boss. Today we share these insights from business author Jeff Haden.

1. Look past the action to understand the motivation. Sometimes an employee makes a mistake or does the wrong thing. Sometimes an employee takes over a project or role without approval. Sometimes an employee jockeys for position, plays political games or ignores company objectives in pursuit of a personal agenda. When that happens, it’s easy to assume that person won’t listen or doesn’t care. But there is usually a deeper reason for the behavior. A good boss will look at the underlying issue to determine why the employee is frustrated or if there is any justification for the employee’s action.

2. Forgive and forget. We all make mistakes at times. When an employee makes a mistake–especially a major mistake—it’s easy to label that employee as incompetent. A good boss will view the mistake as one incident and use the opportunity to educate the employee, not judge the employee in the future based on theerror.

3. Focus on employee goals as much as organizational goals. An effective and memorable boss will inspire his or her team to achieve corporate goals, but tie in how employees will benefit by achieving the corporate goals. Whether they get professional development or an opportunity to grow, those who feel a sense of personal purpose almost always outperform employees who feel a sense of company purpose. If you’re a great boss, you know your employees well enough to tap the personal, not just the professional.

4. Provide support without seeking credit. A good boss is not about self-promotion. For example, if there is an issue with a client who is upset or an employee who is frustrated, a good boss will support the employee dealing with the issue. This means getting all the facts and giving the employee the benefit of the doubt. A good boss will support the employee, even if it sheds a negative light on the boss.

5. Make fewer public decisions. When a decision needs to be made, most of the time the best person to make that decision is the employee closest to the issue. Great bosses trust the expertise of their employees and select the appropriate person to make a decision.

6. Don’t see control as a reward. Many people desperately want to be the boss so they can call the shots and be in control of the team. An effective boss is not focused on gaining control, but instead is focused on helping others and the organization as a whole.

7. Let employees have the ideas. A good boss is a nurturing boss. You get to know your employees, their strengths and what motivates them. Then you put them in situations where they can generate ideas and have a vested interest in the goals and action steps. You see the potential in your employees—and you find ways to let them “take the ball and run with it.”

8. Always feel like you could do better. Good leadership never stops. You always strive for process improvement, better quality, faster service and a better bottom line. Good leaders also strive to understand and elevate their employees.

Looking for another great way to be an exceptional boss? Read about 14 of the industry’s best bosses in PPB‘s October issue.

Source: Jeff Haden is a ghostwriter, speaker, LinkedIn Influencer, and contributing editor to Inc. He learned much of what he knows about business and technology working his way up to managing a 250-employee book plant; everything else he picked up as a ghostwriter for innovators and business leaders. He’s written more than 50 nonfiction books, along with hundreds of articles and reports. And he’s collected four years of tips and advice in his book TransForm: Dramatically Improve Your Career, Business, Relationships, and Life … One Simple Step at a Time.
Image courtesy of Google Image search.

Do You Recognize These Crazies?

I’ve worked for the crazies. There was the assistant dean who didn’t have a clue what I was working on and a company president who didn’t believe in voicemail or email. And don’t forget the boss who falsified expense reports using my name.

Yes, there are bad managers, and then there are bad managers who belong in a special class all their own. Managers have a great opportunity to lead and be positive role models to others. However, too many do not take their role or their responsibility seriously.

Today, Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha! identifies and tells us how to deal with these three types of managers.

The Rock Collector: This manager has no idea what he is really looking for. But that will not slow him down. Instead of moving forward with purpose, his direction seems to change course each day. He sends you chasing after a goal that was never defined, and thus impossible to achieve. If you have a rock collector for a manager, you will rarely please him and your self-confidence can waver over time.

I call him a rock collector because no matter what you bring back, it is never the right rock. It’s too smooth, or shiny or even too large. How can you avoid the scavenger hunt each day? Try to pin him down on specific, measurable goals that you can achieve to mark your progress. Ask him to clearly define what he wants you to accomplish.

The Double-Speaker: This manager is well-versed in the art of duplicity and manipulation, always looking out for No. 1. Depending on who she is talking to, she will share whatever she thinks the other person wants to hear. She is so used to double-talk that she does not even realize she is doing it

If you have this type of manager, you may have to dig deep to find the truth and compare notes with others to determine which story is most accurate. My suggestion: learn her body language, which will betray her dishonesty. And take careful notes whenever she gives you a direction. When she flip-flops, you have the evidence and can kindly point out that she is flipping around like a fish out of water.

The Life-Styler: This manager is joie de vivre personified, and his careless attitude towards life extends to work. While he does not want anything to come between him and his fun, he seems blissfully unaware of everyone else’s hard work on his behalf. If you have something important to discuss, you have to catch this life-styler in between long lunches and hours spent on the links.

Someone needs to be the adult, so it might as well be you. Step up, and be equally cheerful but firm. Explain that you need answers, and that the work cannot be accomplished until you have them. Your boss will hopefully realize his laziness is costing the organization and will start behaving more responsibly. Your co-workers will be silently celebrating your courage as well.

These managers are not necessarily bad people. They have simply picked up bad habits or never learned how to lead well. So how can you deal with these personalities? Be transparent in what you say and what you do, and continue to focus on delivering quality work.

Source: Brian de Haaf is the founder or early employee of six cloud-based software companies and is CEO of Aha!, a software company.

April Fools Office Pranks!

1. Give them an office technology upgrade!


2. If you feel a little nasty, attach an airhorn to their seat.


3. You can always help make sure they read the morning newspaper.


4. Or throw them a surprise balloon party.


5. You can give their car a nice new “paint” job.


6. And then there’s this:


Wheather you’re a prankster or not, we hope everyone enjoys their April 1st!


Valentines Day Plans?


Even if you don’t have plans this Valentine’s Day check out these interesting tid bits about this holiday!

Valentine's Day Tulips

For centuries flowers have symbolized love, fertility, marriage and romance so they are a natural choice for a Valentines Day gift. And people will spend $1.7 Billion on flowers this year!


53% of women in America would dump their boyfriends if they didn’t get anything for Valentine’s Day!

Men spend double what women spend on the holiday. Average: $158.71 vs $75.79.


141 Million cards are exchanged worldwide every Valentines Day.

36 Million heart-shaped boxes of candy will be sold this year. No wonder weight gain happens every winter!

Enjoy your Valentines this year!



10 Signs a Company Has a Serious Culture Problem

Looking for a job? It always surprises me how few people interviewing at my company ask about our culture. But they should. Over the last several months, we’ve all seen two cultural meltdowns that got big media play, and neither company came off well. In one, a woman named Julie Horvath resigned from GitHub and took to Twitter to complain about its alpha-male culture. This eventually led to the resignation of the CEO. In the other, a PayPal manager named Rakesh Agrawal began saying nasty things about other executives on Twitter. They tweeted back that he was mentally ill and they hoped he would find the help he needs. No matter what he did, that was not the sign of a happy workplace.

Aside from the unpleasantness, bad cultures are also bad for your career. Successful people tend to work for winners, and a good culture has been shown to drive long term financial performance. Work for a happy place, and you’ll likely do better in life.

However, that brings up a question. How can you know anything about a company’s culture when you only go for a single interview? Believe it or not, there are signs. As an advertising agency, my company does interviews with dozens of potential clients every year. Over time, we’ve come up with a list of red flags for company culture. No one of them, by itself, should turn you off. But if you see, say, five of them, you may have a problem on your hands. Here they are:

1. They make a big deal out of the Ping-Pong table.
Having a Ping-Pong table is fine; bragging about one is not. Why? The corporate world has somehow equated owning one with having a fun loving-culture. If your potential employers emphasize theirs, it may be a sign they’re checking off boxes rather than giving their employees what they really want.

2. The place is a dump.
Whenever I walk into an office, I look along sightlines. If I see boxes sitting in the aisles and chairs piled up in meeting rooms, I know no one cares about the place. And there is probably a good reason why.

3. Only the leaders have offices.
We’re always leery of a place where everyone has a cube except for the bosses. That usually indicates a hierarchical structure in which management and employees are at odds.

4. No one talks about culture.
Companies should try to sell you on their culture. If the person interviewing you only wants to talk about your qualifications, ask yourself what she’s not telling you about the work environment.

5. Leadership demonstrates bad culture.
Culture always flows from the top. You may not have a chance to meet senior management, but you can probably track down a video of them. Your initial reaction may speak volumes about how much you’ll enjoy working at the company.

6. Your interviewer talks about excellence.
Every organization strives to succeed. That’s a given. A company that emphasizes excellence may also hold its employees to unachievable standards. Rather than focusing on your job, you’ll be worrying about your job.

7. It just seems weird.
A happy workplace should hum. Some people should be up, moving around, and talking to one another. They should not seem bored or stressed. So take a look around, and ask yourself if the average person seems happy or not.

8. The company values are posted on the wall.
If you see this, don’t bother with the interview. Simply find the nearest exit and walk through it.

9. It’s five o’clock, and everyone is buried in work.

If you can, schedule your interview late. Five o’clock gives you a great opportunity to see how a company manages the work-life balance. A few people working late are fine, but some should be heading home.

10. If they ask you if you have a question, ask this:

“How much time do you spend with your coworkers after 5 p.m., and doing what?” Good answers include having a beer and playing softball. Bad answers include anything to do with work, unless it happens only occasionally.

A lot of people would say that work should be a place for work and that these days any job is a good one. Agreed. Obviously you should get the job you can if you’re having trouble finding one. But if you have a choice of employers, try for one with a good culture. You’ll be happier, and your career will thank you.

In fact, the only downside to a good culture is that you’ll never become famous for ranting about your boss on Twitter. Then again, that 15 minutes is probably best left to someone else.

This article was originally published on Forbes Leadership.



Challenge Your Creativity


Counselor Commentary: Challenge Your Creativity

Time To Think Outside The Box



Dave VagnoniEver heard of beardvertising? It’s when companies market their brands by paying men with super furry beards to wear little plastic billboards in their thick whiskers. Sounds totally ridiculous, right? Even the ad exec that came up with the idea thinks so. “It’s so absurd,” says Whit Hiler of Cornett IMS, an agency based in Lexington, “but we’ve earned a ton of free media from it. It was at first a self-promotion piece, but then we got clients on board as partners.”

If you think Cornett is a bit out-of-the-box, Seattle’s Wexley School for Girls – another ad agency – surpasses just about any level of unorthodoxy imaginable. Yet, while the firm has an oddball name and an equally bizarre office space, which includes hanging rubber chickens, it claims Microsoft, Nike and Sephora as its clients. Not too bad. “We do a lot of experiential and event work, trying to engage crowds,” says Cal McAllister, Wexley’s co-founder. “We want to start an interesting conversation.”

McAllister insists Wexley’s best work has been in marketing the Seattle Sounders, a Major League Soccer franchise. When Seattle was awarded a team – long before there was a coach or any players – Wexley was asked to create fan enthusiasm. So what did Wexley, one of the most clever agencies in the entire country, use as the center of this launch campaign? A promotional scarf. Seriously, Wexley hung logoed scarves on trees, buildings, bridges and any Seattle landmark it could find. In the end, team interest was off the charts and the Sounders broke every record in the league for ticket sales, selling out every single game.

So what’s the point in all this for ad specialty companies? Here it is: It’s time to challenge your creativity and think more like a push-the-envelope ad exec than an order taker. Sure, you’ve heard this before and that voice inside your head keeps telling you that you lack the resources, the time, the investment, the whatever. But let’s be totally honest – putting billboards in beards or hanging scarves from trees isn’t really marketing genius. You could’ve come up with the same ideas. They weren’t expensive or that difficult to execute either.

So try this: pick five of your accounts and start thinking about new campaigns you can run, not new products you can pitch. If you’d rather pursue prospects, consider the hot markets of real estate, home healthcare and energy. People and companies in these industries are looking for a marketing edge. Give it to them. If you really want to stop worrying about margins, online threats and rising shipping costs, come up with an idea that brands will pay good money for. And, by the way, part of your marketing approach can be driven by self-promos, too.

Finally, if you hit a mental wall and nothing innovative comes to mind, check out the March issue of Counselor for some truly unique marketing ideas. And be sure to tell that voice in your head to get lost and go work for the competition.

April Fools’ Day: Fool-Proof Pranks for the Office

Hamsa Ramesha | SalesHQ


April Fools is just around the corner, and that means you’ve either got a nefarious prank up your sleeve, or are planning to take some PTO to avoid being pranked. Whatever type of funny business you choose for April Fools’ Day, make sure that you don’t cross the line and get yourself fired or involved in a lawsuit! Follow these guidelines when thinking up your practical joke to protect your career, and possibly, your colleagues.

– Consider the level of embarrassment or disruption your prank could cause at work.

– What kind of consequences will your joke have? Anything that could be potentially long term or career-damaging should be avoided.

– What’s your motive? If it’s revenge, it’s not a prank. Back off now.

– Who is your victim? If your boss is your target, tread carefully. Be extra cautious when fooling employees who are higher up the corporate ladder. The higher they are, the harder they fall.

In the meantime, check out these five office-friendly pranks that you can use to laugh it up come April 1st! We’ve put together a mixed batch of humorous pranks that won’t get you fired, but will get you laughs.

Office Ransom

The Prank:
Steal an item of value from your victim. Objects of value such as special writing tools, a nice mouse, an ergonomic keyboard, or a personal coffee cup, work well. Take a picture of the item and leave it on their desk along with a ransom note. Extra points for wearing a wicked mustache!

Level: C
This prank is simple, and to the point. You can’t go wrong with this practical joke, but you aren’t impressing anybody either. Points for trying, but you lose on actual cleverness.

The Pen is Mightier

2. The Pen is Mightier

The Prank:
They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Have you tried testing that theory?

Take all the pens from your colleague’s desk and paint some of the tips with clear nail polish so that they won’t write. With the remaining pens, glue the caps to the pens so that they won’t come off! Sit back and watch as your coworker goes through everything, trying to find something to write with! (Note: You can remove the nail polish by dipping the pens in nail polish remover. No harm, no foul.

Level: B
High points for hilarity and public embarrassment; but this also lacks difficulty and complexity.

Office Conspiracy
3. Office Conspiracy
The Prank:
Gather a group of coworkers who will be in on the joke. Have each of them call the victim’s office throughout the day asking for a mysterious employee called “Joe.” Of course, your poor coworker will have no idea who they are asking for and will proceed to become increasingly frustrated by the end of the day. To top it off, at the end of the day, have one last person call in as “Joe” and ask the victim for any messages!

Level: B
You get major points for the extended time frame of the prank, coordination of a larger group, but the level of public embarrassment could be higher. Try again.

Foil Prank
4. Foiled Again!
The Prank:
Go out and by lots of aluminum foil. Wait until your intended victim leaves for the day on March 31. Once you’re sure he’s left the premises, you and your fellow colleagues start covering everything in aluminum foil. And we mean everything, like his desk, pens, books, phone, and chair. (Note: You can also try shrink wrap or other similar materials if you prefer.)

Level: A-
Points for involving more people, and creating a small conspiracy! While it’s not the most devious prank in the world, it is pretty hilarious. Kudos for a job well done!

Bathroom Bait
5. Bathroom Bait

The Prank:
This complex office joke will guarantee you as the reigning prank master if you can pull it off successfully!

You’ll need a pair of pants, socks, shoes, and something to stuff them with, like a large doll or crushed newspaper. Go into a bathroom stall at work and place the stuffed pants on the toilet seat, so that it looks like someone is using the stall. Lock the stall door and get out of there! Set up a fake bathroom dummy for however many stalls your office bathroom has. If you really want to go for it, hide a tape recorder in the bathroom with sounds of flushing and other bathroom-appropriate noises! Sit back and laugh it up as coworkers wait, and wait, and wait for an empty stall.

Level: A
Congratulations for pulling off a masterful prank without getting caught and successfully frustrating your fellow coworkers. You win major points for pulling off a pretty complicated prank that required a lot of planning, stealth and sheer nerve. You are a prank king!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2012 for Retailers and Shoppers Alike

Valentine’s Day Sales to Set New Records:

People are planning to lavish attention on their loved ones this Valentine’s Day, thanks to optimism buoyed by strong job growth. In 2012, Valentine’s Day was estimated to contribute around $17.6 billion to the economy, according to the National Retail Federation. This is 8.6% higher than Valentine’s Day 2011 and the highest since the NRF began surveying shoppers ten years ago.

How Much Do People Plan to Spend on Valentine’s Day?:

People surveyed said they would spend more than in 2011 — on average, $126.03 each, compared to $116.21 last year. As usual, men planned to spend more than women: $168.74 per guy v.s. $85.76 per gal. As you might guess, those complacent married folks spend less, about $74.12 per spouse. At least it’s more than last year, when they spent $68.98 each. 

What Do Lovers Buy on Valentine’s Day?:

Most people said they would spend less on big-ticket items, instead sharing the love with more people by buying smaller gifts. Only one in five (18.9%) said they would buy the traditional romantic gift of jewelry. However, this is the highest percent in history. Although not as many people buy jewelry, they will wind up spending the most — a healthy $4.1 billion across the country, up from $3.5 billion in 2011.
The most popular purchase is the traditional cards and candy, with more half getting one or the other, and spending $1.5 billion in total. More than a third plan to buy flowers, spending $1.8 billion nationwide. The same percent plan to take their loved one out to dinner, spending a bit more at $3.5 billion. Many preferred to buy more practical gifts — $1.4 billion will be spent on sweaters, winter accessories and other clothing. The least popular purchase is gift cards. Only 13.3% will buy this least-romantic gift, up from 12.6% in 2011. Total spent will be a mere $1.1 billion.

Where Do They Shop?:

Since people aren’t as worried about the economy, they aren’t heading to discount stores as much as in the past — only 37% of shoppers this year vs. 40% last year. Department stores are seeing a boost, receiving visits from 33.6% of shoppers, up from 30% last year. Other stores will see about the same percentage of shoppers as in the past: specialty stores (20%), florists (17.8%), jewelry stores (10.6%) and specialty apparel stores (6.6%). 

As they did during the Black Friday holiday weekend, a growing number of shoppers will head for their computers. Nearly 20% of Valentine’s Day shoppers plan to shop online, compared to 18.3% in 2011.

Mobile Devices on the Upswing:

Just like Cyber Monday 2011, shoppers are increasing their use of tablets and smartphones to make sharing the love a little more convenient. More than half of all tablet owners (53.8%) will research products, prices, and retailer information, redeem coupons and purchase products with their tablet. Just over 40.4% of smartphone users will do the same while they are on-the-go. (Source: National Retail Federation, Americans to Pull Out All Stops This Valentine’s Day, February 1, 2012)
As NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay concludes, “As one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, it’s encouraging that consumers are still exhibiting the desire to spend on discretionary gift items, a strong indication our economy continues to move in the right direction.” He adds that retailers have stocked the shelves in anticipation of optimistic shoppers. And, just like the sales on Black Friday, they will, “…entice eager shoppers with great deals on everything from special menu items at restaurants to clothing to flowers and, of course, chocolates.” (Updated February 8, 2012)
By Kimberly Amadeo, Guide

A New Era

Ask not what QR codes can do for you; ask what you can do for others using QR codes.

A UK-based creative company isn’t using custom-designed QR codes to sell products or promote its services. Instead, it’s using the scanable codes to gift others with music.

The company, called Stupid Creative, takes one-of-a-kind QR codes and prints them on greeting cards, which it calls playlist cards. Once scanned, the codes let users open specially curated Spotify playlists within their Spotify smart phone apps.

Spotify is an online music service that gives users free, instant access to millions of songs. Users can also share songs and playlists with friends via the site’s partnership with Facebook.

Playlist cards are generally designed around a theme to which the music selected on Spotify is geared. Cards have been built around music for cooking, music for geeks, music for making art, music for love and music for monsters—no doubt made for Halloween.

Stupid Creative’s playlist cards have been touted as the 21st century’s version of the mixtape. Since the inception of MP3 players and iTunes, the act of selecting music and gifting it has become almost obsolete. QR codes give music fans a way to share music that makes sense given today’s technology.

Tama Underwood

Be the Rabbit with Focus

Almost everyone loves the story of the tortoise and the hare. It’s a classic.

I hate it!

It’s too limiting.

If everyone thinks of themselves at the tortoise, nothing would get done. Yes, I understand the story’s concept. If you stick with something you’ll win the marathon in the end.

The rabbit has the superpower of speed and that’s great, but like any great strength he lacks passion and focus. This is where I actually love the book.

Yes, I admit. I love the book too!


The book makes the perfect case for making better use of your superpowers. If you love something it doesn’t mean you should actually make a career out of it because it may not be a strength of yours.

As you know I don’t like people who just center on their strengths. They forget about the passion and the focus that it takes do great work.

Too often we think that because we love something that we can turn it into a strength. This is possible, but usually very painful.

You wouldn’t tell a 10th grader with weak math skills to stick with it and try to become an engineer. The same thing goes for a 10th grader who hates math, but is good at. You would tell a 10th grader who has great math skills and is interested in the concepts to try to become an engineer because they have strength and passion to make it happen.

Aesop should have focused on the rabbit’s lack of focus and passion. I know it wouldn’t have made such an inspiring story. Even though it would have been more true to life.

Your perspective

When you look at yourself as the tortoise you are conceding that you don’t have the speed to keep up, but you hope that everyone around you falters. This negative perspective will hold you back. There are plenty of rabbits out there who are passionate and focused. You can’t rely on other people to falter to win the race.

You have to look at yourself as a rabbit. Look at what core superpowers you possess and how you can do work that you are passionate about and gets you in the zone. It’s these powers that will help you create a career that brings happiness and success.